Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Don't be Fooled!
I got into a rather long discussion with a magic friend of mine, who thinks that Penn and Teller's "Fool Us" harms the magic image, as it reduces magic down to the tricks. I feel otherwise. And thinking about it I remembered a book a read some year ago.
Florian Severin, respected author of the great book "13 Steps to Vandalism" makes a great point in the book. It starts of with a hypothetical scenario. Imagine this: Your audience knows the ins and out of your tricks. They know how you perform your whole act. They know about the method implied, they know about the gags, the framing and even everything about your whole persona. Would people still wanna see your act? The answer is yes, if you are good.
Basically it is like a stand up comedian. If you still laugh seeing him the second time then he is good. Think about it. Seeing an comedy act a second time means you got no surprises coming up. You know every single punchline and the whole act in general. Still people will come and want to see your act. Many times. Why? Because you are good.
Now transfer this to magic... If there are no surprises and no mystery left, then the only thing left is you. And if you're good, people will come.
This whole thought experiment derived from one experience. Florian Severin saw a show with some of his parent's friends (if i recall correctly) The magicians performing must have been horrible. At the end Florian was told that the magician was good. Florian was appalled upon hearing that. Then asking why the audience thought the bad magician was good Florian got the following answer: "Yes, I don't know how he did any of the tricks."
So Florian concluded that the masked magician probably did us magicians a favor. Personally I think that Penn and Teller do us a favor in the long run. First they don't really expose magicians. They expose methods, but only if there are several other methods to choose from. And they don't reduce magic to just the tricks.